Summit Snapshot: The One-Ton Cookie -- The Intersection of Self-Driving Vehicles and Relevance

September 21, 2017

Big Idea: As quickly as doors open in the connected car ecosystem, stakeholders and regulators are trying to shape useful rules and standards around a flow of data potentially useful to marketers.

Innovation at DAA Summit 2017…

The age of connected and autonomous vehicles has arrived, raising questions about the future of the auto industry, public safety, and the very nature of transportation. But as cars become smarter, companies and regulators alike are thinking about more than just their driving performance -- the focus also rests on the data such vehicles can collect.

A self-driving vehicle today generates about one gigabyte of information every second, according to David L. Strickland, partner at Venable, who led a panel at DAA Summit 2017 titled “The One-Ton Cookie: the Intersection of Self-Driving Vehicles and Relevance.” Even non-autonomous “connected” cars are constantly collecting data about their location, performance, and visual surroundings.

Who has access this data is still in question, but Strickland and his fellow panelists -- Rebecca Lindland, senior director of consumer insights at Kelley Blue Book/Cox Automotive, and Peder Magee, senior attorney for privacy and identity protection at the Federal Trade Commission -- agreed that it will redefine cars and their societal and economic value.

“Data is going to be the lifeblood of this industry,” forecasted Strickland, who previously served as the top regulator at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before moving to Venable.

The panelists discussed what this data-based future might look like and how a regulatory regime -- and potentially self-regulatory regime -- may be built around it.

Lindland presented two consumer studies she’s worked on recently that are helping the industry address these questions. Generally, KBB/Cox Automotive’s research focused on Americans’ preferences for technology in their cars. Since they are digital natives, millennials in particular are likely to be more eager to adopt connected and autonomous vehicles than older generations, she said.

Photo: Rebecca Lindland, Senior Director of Commercial Insights, Kelley Blue Book/Cox Automotive, at DAA Summit 2017

Also according to the research findings, most Americans (59 percent) are interested in upgrading to higher levels of autonomy in the next three years. And, as Lindland reported, the quality of the digital experience in cars is becoming as important to consumers as the vehicle’s performance on the road.

“A consumer will mark down a vehicle just based on the HMI: the human-to-machine interface,” Lindland said.

Figure: Americans’ interest in purchasing or leasing autonomous vehicles in the next three years is approaching 60 percent.

What both studies mean for the industry -- and anyone interested in data, for that matter -- is that the capabilities and market for connected and autonomous cars, and the data they possess, will only continue to grow.

“You definitely have a push/pull when it comes to consumers’ attitudes” around high-tech cars, Lindland said, citing her company’s research; many consumers are excited to use them, but have “privacy concerns for sure.” Building trust— around security and safety, but also data-sharing—will be important for brands.

“I think one thing that's going to be very important is transparency and educating consumers about what is going on [with vehicle-collected and -derived data],” FTC’s Magee said, offering an angle for addressing privacy and consumer concerns.

Photo: (From left to right) David L. Strickland, partner, Venable LLP, Rebecca Lindland, senior director of consumer insights at Kelley Blue Book, and Peder Magee, senior attorney for privacy and identity protection at the FTC

How to deliver such education is not entirely clear. The vehicle manufacturer who designs and builds the car will likely share this responsibility with dealers, who interact with consumers directly at the point of purchase.

Educating consumers will not only help build trust but also convey the benefits that come with data sharing. As Strickland said, while profit-driven companies are developing and deploying these innovations, the first and foremost effort is a “safety initiative.”

“The potential benefit can change society,” Magee added. Indeed the value proposition for consumers includes improved safety (data can be used to analyze potential defects, enable quicker responses to crashes, or prevent a crash from happening) but also improved convenience, such as with navigation or parking.

In addition to education, implementing consumer control will pose another complex task. Automakers are still figuring out exactly when and where to deliver consumer choices for data sharing, and for what purposes.

More than creative, useful regulation will need to be flexible, given how quickly technology can advance. For example, Lindland said, many automakers have just this year decided to skip the SAE Level 3 of semi-autonomy (a standardized definition of different levels of automated driving systems agreed upon by the Society of Automotive Engineers) and focus on working toward “Level 4” fully-autonomous vehicles.

“Those decisions were just made in the last few months,” Lindland said. “That’s the kind of quick action that’s being taken today, which impacts the regulatory space.”

In line with initiatives in the digital ad space like that of the Digital Advertising Alliance, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has created a set of privacy principles for connected cars. Indeed the auto industry and regulators are looking to adapt the fundamental dictums of mobile and web data sharing for the future’s “rolling living rooms.” When drivers essentially become passengers -- all types of work and play may take the place of drive time.

“We talk about building privacy into your products from the outset, having things like data security, data minimization practices, anonymization, being transparent, and then in the appropriate circumstances, giving consumers control,” Magee said, “I think those concepts are going to apply in the connected car space, in general, but there are going to be some interesting wrinkles.”

[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Charlie Tomb for his editorial support toward our Summit Snapshot 2017 blog series.]

Back to Top